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Label: disruption

Friday 04th November 2016Art Market Disruptors

One of the biggest buzzwords spawned by the tech industry in recent memory is 'disruption'. It more or less does what it says on the tin, but in this usage it has the added context of being a disruption of the current market structure driven by technological innovation. Uber is a prime example - they've taken ubiquitous smartphone technology and used it to completely disrupt the taxicab market. Airbnb used the internet and mapping services to completely disrupt the hotel industry by allowing random people to rent out apartments or even spare rooms on a temporary basis.

There are many other successful examples, and far more failed examples, but the most notable failure (from our perspective, anyways) is the failure of any of the disruptive technologies to catch on in the art market.

We've covered a number of the possible disruptors over the past few years, ranging from new and exciting online auction platforms to the Tinder-style art-buying app Wydr. But as of yet, none of them has really had anything close to what could be termed a disruptive impact.

Many theories have been floated about why these technologies haven't caught on in the art world, but one of the most interesting ideas is that the art market's disruption happened well before anyone was using the term. The advent of computer-managed databases for price indexes, forecasts about auction prices and art investment projections completely changed the way business was done in the art world already, in a way that neither taxis or hotels could be.

Of course, in parallel, one might argue that hotels and taxis were disrupted by the advent of online bookings and telephones to summon a cab, but those disruptions occurred so long ago that the market had matured enough to become ripe for another disruption. It's unlikely that we'll see another disruption of the taxi industry until driverless cars become commonly available, and another when autonomous drones really take off - and who knows when that will be.

With that parallel in mind, is the art world ripe for another disruption? Some want to claim that the art world is simply too real and present to be disrupted by a digital technology, but perhaps that's because "the art world" is too monolithic an entity to be disrupted by a single event, rather than the fact that it is immune to disruption.

Digital photograph destroyed entire companies, and the ability to virtually walk through photorealistic representations of museums may completely tank actual visitor numbers. Only time - and genius - will tell.

Posted on November 04th 2016 on 07:49pm
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